Within parapsychology, clairvoyance is used exclusively to refer to the transfer of information that is both contemporary to, and hidden from, the clairvoyant. It is very different from telepathy in that the information is said to be gained directly from an external physical source, rather than being transferred from the mind of one individual to another.
Outside of parapsychology, clairvoyance is often used to refer to other forms of anomalous cognition, most commonly the perception of events that have occurred in the past, or which will occur in the future (known as retrocognition and precognition respectively), or to refer to communications with the dead (see Mediumship).
Clairvoyance is related to remote viewing, although the term “remote viewing” itself is not as widely applicable to clairvoyance because it refers to a specific controlled process.
(Bruce Main-Smith writes):- It is unfortunate, indeed careless, that clairvoyance has come to be indicative of all/most forms of purported mediumship. There are four primary channels, clairsensing, trance, healing and physical plus a whole raft of others that do not fit neatly into any one primary channel. Clairvoyance (seeing) and clairaudience (hearing) for example are both kinds of clairsensing and belong in that main group. Many mediums who are good clairvoyants may well have little or no clairaudient capability even though both “gifts” belong in the primary channel of clairsensing. Remote viewing is a facet of clairvoyance and usually appears in practitioners suffering from arrested development.
Trance is the ability to communicate with, and mainly to receive from, other entities, incarnate & discarnate, and may sometimes be independent of time; it is usually divided into deep trance (obliterative & so dangerous, where the operative abdicates the throne, quite common) and light trance (a high or even total degree of awareness & thus safer for the practitioner, and extremely rare when well-done).
Healing is the ability to induct health benefits from some usually unspecified higher source where the healer can direct the effects to the beneficiary. Contact healing involves the healer being in the closest proximity but not necessarily actually touching. Absent healing is explained by its alternative name of distant healing and is independent of spatial distance.
Physical mediumship includes events such as table turning, production of quasi-physical objects (even personages) & sometimes involving so-called ectoplasm. It is often said to require either total darkness or at the most a weak red light.
There are many further mediumistic events, still unfortunately too often dubbed clairvoyance, which do not fit neatly into any of the four main channels. These include psychometry (establishing the history of an object), slate writing (common in Victorian times), extras appearing in photographs (seemingly no more; possibly since the advent of compound camera lenses using plastic as well as quartz-glass) and a long list of other curiosities too extensive to be dealt with here.
It is most unusual for a medium to have more than one primary channel “open” and under control.
Parapsychological research studies of remote viewing and clairvoyance have produced favorable results significantly above chance, and meta-analysis of these studies increases the significance. For instance, at the Stanford Research Institute, in 1972, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ initiated a series of human subject studies to determine whether participants (the viewers or percipients) could reliably identify and accurately describe salient features of remote locations or targets. In the early studies, a human sender was typically present at the remote location, as part of the experiment protocol. A three-step process was used, the first step being to randomly select the target conditions to be experienced by the senders. Secondly, in the viewing step, participants were asked to verbally express or sketch their impressions of the remote scene. Thirdly, in the judging step, these descriptions were matched by separate judges, as closely as possible, with the intended targets. The term remote viewing was coined to describe this overall process.
Targ and Puthoff both believed that Uri Geller, retired police commissioner Pat Price and artist Ingo Swann all had genuine psychic abilities. They published their findings in Nature and the Proceedings of the IEEE. Their work however met criticism from a number of writers, such as psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann in their 1980 book The Psychology of the Psychic.
In order to explore the nature of remote viewing channel, the viewer in some experiments was secured in a double-walled copper-screened Faraday cage. Although this provided attenuation of radio signals over a broad range of frequencies, the researchers found that it did not alter the subject’s remote viewing capability. They postulated that extremely low frequency (ELF) propagation might be involved, since Faraday cage screening is less effective in the ELF range. Such a hypothesis had previously been put forward by telepathy researchers in the Soviet Union.
The first paper by Puthoff and Targ on psychic research to appear in a mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journal was published in Nature in March 1974; in it, the team reported some degree of remote viewing success. One of the individuals involved in these initial studies at SRI was Uri Geller, a well-known celebrity psychic at the time. The research team reported witnessing some of Geller’s trademark metal spoon-bending performances, but admitted that they were unable to conduct adequately controlled experiments to confirm any paranormal hypothesis about them.
Electroencephalography (EEG) techniques were also used by team to examine ESP phenomena. In these investigations, a sender, who was isolated in a visually opaque, electrically and acoustically shielded chamber, was stimulated at random by bursts of strobe-light flickers The experimenters reported that, for one receiver, differential alpha block on control and stimulus trials were observed, which showed that some information transfer had occurred. In contrast, this person’s expressed statements of when the stimulus occurred were no different than that which would be expected by chance. The researches were unable to identify the physical parameters by which the EEG effect was mediated.
After the publication of these findings, various attempts to replicate the remote viewing findings were quickly carried out. Several of these follow-up studies, which involved viewing in group settings, reported some limited success. They included the use of face-to-face groups, and remotely-linked groups using computer conferencing.
The various debates in the mainstream scientific literature prompted the editors of ‘Proceedings of the IEEE’ to invite Robert Jahn, then Dean of the School of Engineering at Princeton University, to write a comprehensive review of psychic phenomena from an engineering perspective. His paper, published in February 1982, includes numerous references to remote viewing replication studies at the time.
Clairvoyance experiments involving Zener cards currently exist on the internet. One such online system, the Anima Project, gathers user results into a master database which is then analyzed using a variety of statistical techniques.